[sixties-l] Peace Gets a Chance (fwd)

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Date: Wed Oct 16 2002 - 04:17:48 EDT

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    Date: Tue, 15 Oct 2002 23:10:39 -0700
    From: radtimes <resist@best.com>
    Subject: Peace Gets a Chance

    Peace Gets a Chance


    By Liza Featherstone, The Nation
    October 11, 2002

    "You look beautiful," shouted more than one speaker to the crowd that
    gathered in New York's Central Park on Sunday, Oct. 6, to protest
    George W. Bush's "war on the world," most urgently the impending
    invasion of Iraq. The lively and youthful demonstrationsome 20,000
    strongwas a beautiful sight indeed. A largely regional protest, it did
    draw some visitors from Ohio, Massachusetts and elsewhere, and a
    Swedish couple was overhead saying something incomprehensible
    except for the words "Not in Our Name."
    Across the country, a nascent U.S. peace movement has gradually been
    gathering momentum. In September, at least 300 peace events were
    being held weekly in cities from Pensacola to Fairbanks. Organizers say
    they're attracting many who oppose the war in Iraq but were ambivalent
    about, or supported, war in Afghanistan. Reecha Sen, a volunteer for
    New York Not in Our Name, observes, "People who wouldn't have
    come out last year are joining us. They say, 'This is ridiculous; we have
    no support from the world.'"
    Church leadersincluding many from conservative institutions, like the
    Evangelical Lutheran Church, as well as the outspoken National Council
    of Churchesare against this war. Some mainstream politicians and
    many liberal Democrats have expressed doubt or outright dissent. An
    early October Gallup poll found 38 percent of Americans opposed to
    the war.
    The group Not in Our Name http://www.nion.us/ began as an indignant
    rallying cry among
    some relatives of 9/11 victims, who formed an organization called
    Peaceful Tomorrows to oppose the bombing of Afghanistan. The slogan
    was then embraced by other antiwar New Yorkers, and in March 2002
    a broad coalition conceived the idea of a national gathering around the
    theme at which congregants would take a pledge of resistance. ("Not in
    our name will you wage endless war... Not in our name will you erode
    the very freedoms you have claimed to fight for.") Somewhat infelicitous
    and arrhythmic on paper, the pledge is powerful when chanted out loud
    by thousands.
    The all-volunteer Not in Our Name network established a national office
    in New York (sharing space with the Women's International League for
    Peace and Freedom), and activists all over the world adopted the
    slogan and organized events on the same day. Demonstrations were
    held in more than 28 U.S. cities, including big cities like Los Angeles,
    Seattle and Chicago, and progressive strongholds like Chapel Hill
    (North Carolina) and Portland (Oregon), as well as Corvallis (Oregon),
    Kickapoo region (Wisconsin), Westerly (Rhode Island), Houston, Salt
    Lake City, Greenville (South Carolina), Atlanta, Fort Wayne (Indiana),
    Sandpoint (Idaho), Charlottesville, Nashville, Kansas City and
    Anchorage. Outside the United States, Not in Our Name events drew
    demonstrators in Adelaide, Rome, Brussels and London.
    At first, the "war on terrorism" seemed to bring out the worst in the left
    -- sectarianism, racial tensions, dour moralism, posturing,
    self-marginalization and badly muddled analysis. This was in sharp
    contrast to economic issues like trade policy and living-wage laws,
    which have in recent years inspired creative actions and coalitions,
    resonated with many ordinary people and even yielded small victories.
    In the past few months, however, many activists have made an effort to
    transcend their divisions and to reach mainstream Americans. As Global
    Exchange co-founder Medea Benjaminwho has organized some of
    the most visible protests, even personally disrupting Donald Rumsfeld's
    Sept. 18 Congressional testimonywrote in August: "We've got to talk
    to our friends, our relatives, our co-workers and let them know that yes,
    Saddam Hussein is evil, but he is not threatening us, he had nothing to
    do with September 11, and attacking a Muslim country...will put us and
    our families in danger."
    In the same vein, sociologist and author Todd Gitlin, who supported the
    war on Afghanistan, reminded protesters at a September rally in front of
    the United Nations to be "careful" to condemn the crimes of Saddam
    Hussein as well as those of Bush, calling the Iraqi leader a "brutal
    dictator." His speech rankled some of the faithfulone grumbled,
    "That's their propaganda! That kind of talk has no place at an antiwar
    rally"but it's just the sort of message that will help the antiwar
    movement reach a broader public.
    What's more, the media-savvy creativity of the globalization activists is
    rubbing off on antiwar organizers. Activists protested Bush's September
    UN speech by unfurling a 1,500-square-foot banner over the East
    River. The banner, which read "Earth to Bush: NO WAR IRAQ!" was
    hoisted by four giant helium weather balloons. Increasingly, too, peace
    activists evoke the globalization movement's optimistic idiom. At the
    Central Park rally, the last line of the Not in Our Name pledge drew the
    most enthusiasm: "Another world is possible and we pledge to make it
    Global Exchange's Jason Mark says the challenge now is to oppose "the
    idea of American empire without sounding like 1970s leftists. People
    don't want to sound off-the-wall, but the words 'empire' and
    'imperialism' are fair game because they're using them""they" meaning
    right-wing think tanks and Bush advisers. This new anti-imperialism is
    showing up in some surprising quarters. "The Administration's doctrine is
    a call for 21st-century American imperialism that no other nation can or
    should accept," Ted Kennedy has said. Anti-imperialism, Mark
    observes, could unite the globalization and antiwar movements.
    Of course, not all the recent antiwar organizing has been this appealing
    and sensible. Even the smartest groups are making some questionable
    decisions, continually harping on the U.S. intervention in Afghanistan, a
    fait accompli that was enthusiastically supported by most Americans. At
    some protests, demonstrators have signs proclaiming Bush Knew,
    suggesting that the President was directly implicated in the 9/11 carnage.
    Act Now to Stop War & End Racism (ANSWER), http://www.internationalanswer.org/
    an international coalition, doesn't go in for such wacky conspiracies, but
    its rhetoric
    makes few concessions to Americans who may be concerned about
    security as well as imperialism. ANSWER's organizational skills are a
    blessing or curse for the peace movement, depending on whom you ask
    or, as one organizer laughs, "depending on the day."
    The coalition has called a national march on Washington against the war
    in Iraq (Oct. 26) and in many parts of the country provides the only
    organizing structure for antiwar protests. Their calls to action are usually
    commendably simple, drawing large numbers of people. Yet ANSWER
    doesn't work well with other groups, and its rallies have a robotic,
    soulless feel. Some organizers say they would not work with
    ANSWER, while others, like Biju Mathew of the New York Taxi
    Workers Alliance, find that attitude intolerant and "sectarian." Mark
    complained about ANSWER but, citing a successful joint rally in San
    Francisco, said, "We've tried to mend fences."
    To its credit, and in contrast to ANSWER's approach, Global Exchange
    has been appealing to those who fear that war on Iraq may distract the
    government from the al-Qaeda threat and even breed more terrorists.
    Global Exchange has been distributing thousands of fliers with the image
    -- originally from a New York Times ad taken out by TomPaine.com
    of bin Laden in an Uncle Sam-like posture saying, "I WANT YOU to
    invade Iraq." Says Mark, "It resonates with a lot of people who think
    this [war] is going to erode rather than enhance U.S. security."
    Undeterred by apparent indifference to their arguments in Congress,
    antiwar citizens have been taking up the issue with their elected
    representativesin person. On Oct. 3, 16 protesters were arrested
    after occupying Republican Senator Rick Santorum's Philadelphia office.
    Democrats who have received similar "visits" include Representative
    Tom Lantos of California, Senators Maria Cantwell and Patti Murray of
    Washington, and Senators Paul Wellstone and Mark Dayton of
    At this writing, activists are occupying war enthusiast Dick Gephardt's
    office. On Sept. 29 some 3,000 antiwar protesters showed up at Dick
    Cheney's house in Washington, DC. And most of George W. Bush's
    recent appearancesfrom Portland, Oregon, to Manchester, New
    Hampshirehave sparked demonstrations. At the Cincinnati Museum
    Center, as Bush gave a nationally televised speech attempting to make
    the case for war, more than 2,000 people gathered in peaceful protest
    after the speech, dozens blocked exits to the museum's parking lot.
    In the coming weeks, more than 250 antiwar actions are planned
    nationwide, and Global Exchange's Jason Mark says he's getting calls
    constantly from people who want to contact politicians: "They say, 'I
    haven't done this since the Nixon Administration.' The war is really
    bringing people out of the woodwork."
    Liza Featherstone is a New York City-based journalist whose work
    on student and youth activism has appeared in The Nation, Lingua
    Franca, the New York Times, the Washington Post and Ms. She is
    co-author of "Students Against Sweatshops: The Making of a
    Movement" (Verso 2002).

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